Remember this cake?
You saw me just a few days ago, hope you haven't forgotten me already...
Well today I'll show you how YOU can make this at home. It's actually not that difficult at all!
First off, you'll need to bake a cake. You could do a simple 2-layer cake (8" or 9") but I decided to mix things up a bit and make 4 layers: two 6" cakes and two 8" cakes. Why those sizes? Well, you'll see in a second...
But first, I need to tell you guys about a new recipe I tried out!
For yellow cake I traditionally use one of two different recipes. (Check out my yellow cake throwdown post for a head-to-head match between my two favorite recipes.) To summarize, I slightly prefer the Cooks Illustrated "rich and tender yellow cake", but it cooks up a bit flat. So if I want slightly taller layers I often use Smitten Kitchen's "best birthday cake" recipe. Both are bona fide winners in my book, but then I noticed that Cooks Illustrated had another yellow cake recipe on their site called "fluffy yellow cake."
Apparently it's supposed to cook up similar to a box mix cake: light and fluffy, but without the weird chemically flavor.
A light yellow cake with talllll layers would be perfect for my basket cake since I didn't want it to be short and squat. So I followed the recipe as written, but instead of dividing the batter into two 9" pans, I split the batter into four pans (two 6" and two 8" pans). So the layers weren't super high on their own, but this way I wouldn't have to split them in half to frost them.
But why did I use 4 pans instead of 2? Well that way I could carve my cake such that the top of the basket was a bit wider than the bottom!
From top to bottom:
8" cake, chocolate frosting, 8" cake, chocolate frosting, 6" cake, chocolate frosting, 6" cake.
Using a sharp knife, I carved the top two layers so that the sides of the basket curve out from bottom to top. It definitely adds a little more time to the process (and is therefore completely optional), but it's one of those things that differentiates a cake decorated like a basket from a basket that's made out of cake. (My words are like poetry sometimes, right?? Ok, maybe not...)
Just look what a difference the shape makes once a crumb coat of frosting is applied to the cake:
And if you think for a moment that carving the cake is a waste of cake, you don't know me well enough to know that I hate throwing food away. Just add a little bit of extra frosting to the cake you've carved away, mash together with your hands, and turn them into delicious cake balls. Yum!!
Once the cake has been covered with a thin layer of frosting (called the crumb coat b/c it catches all the cake crumbs in that initial layer), you're ready to pipe on your basketweave pattern.
I promise you, it looks a LOT harder than it actually is, and it doesn't take too much time at all. Less than 30 minutes from start to finish. Here's a great tutorial on how to do the basketweave. I used a regular round tip (instead of the flatter tip that's often used to make basketweave cakes). Just google "basketweave cake decorating" on You Tube if you want more examples/instruction on how to do this at home.
Then for the top of the cake I just colored some coconut with green food coloring, added some peanut butter egg shaped Easter M&Ms, and popped on a handle out of fondant/gumpaste (that was made a day in advance to give it time to dry). And viola! Easter egg basket.
And if you're wondering how the cake looked on the inside, I managed to snap a picture of the last remaining section of cake.
Layers of light fluffiness.
3/4 of a recipe of Italian meringue buttercream frosting + 3 oz dark chocolate
(This was enough to fill/frost/decorate the cake with another 1+ cups left over)
Light and Fluffy Yellow Layer Cake, adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Notes: To achieve maximum fluffiness, bring all the ingredients to room temperature before making the cake. The recipe calls for baking the cake in two 9" pans. I split the batter into 4 pans (two 8" and two 6" pans) and it worked great too. I can image it would cook well in two 10" pans as well.
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp table salt
1 1/2 + 1/4 cups sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
10 TBSP (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (or 1 cup milk + 1 TBSP lemon juice allowed to sit for 10 minutes)
3 TBSP vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9" baking pans with baking spray, line with wax or parchment paper, and spray with more baking spray.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in large bowl. In medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and yolks.
3. In very clean (and grease-free) bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 90 seconds (whites should hold peak but mixture should appear moist). Transfer to bowl and set aside.
4. Add flour mixture to now-empty mixing bowl fitted with whisk attachment. With mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape whisk and sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.
5. Using rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of whites into batter to lighten, then add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans. Lightly tap pans against counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any large air bubbles.
6. Bake until cake layers begin to pull away from sides of pans and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen cakes from sides of pans with small knife, then invert onto greased wire rack and peel off parchment. Invert cakes again and cool completely on rack, about 1 1/2 hours.